South Portland, Maine — I read the news today, oh boy! "Uber driver hospitalized after throat slit by passenger.” "Pregnant Lyft driver stabbed to death by passenger.” "Passengers attack Las Vegas Uber driver.”
Reading these stories caused me to think about how fragile life can be out on the road ride-sharing. Starting out to pick someone up, you have no guarantee that you'll return alive. They also reminded me of a scary ride I had on a chilly Halloween evening north of Westbrook, Maine.
After some confusion in the pick-up, the person ordering the ride directed me to take his friend, John, to an address to be determined by John. Without asking, John emphatically got into the front seat of my car. This abrupt action on his part made me a little nervous since passengers typically get in the back seat, and should they want to sit up front, they will usually ask.
John, by the way, was a large, muscular and tall man around 40 years of age, which contributed to my uneasiness about this person. After following John’s random several directional turns that led us out of town (which my intuition told me didn't make sense), John began telling me that he had been in "Special Ops" in the Middle East. Embellishing on this topic, John matter-of-factly told me that he had killed many people there adding, "I became good at killing with my hands.”
After a long pause and with a dramatic change in voice, John said very slowly, "I could kill you right now, no sweat!" I did not for a moment doubt his ability to accomplish this. The best thing to do I quickly decided was to keep driving and try to defuse his seemingly diabolical spirit. As I attempted to change the subject, John interrupted me.
“You are a really stupid man,” he told me.
“What do you mean?" I asked.
He proceeded into an expletive-filled tirade about Uber and its drivers before answering my question, “They have left you out here to die!”
Had we been in a populated area at that moment, I would have driven into a gas station or a place of business. But, as fate would have it, we were out in the boonies. With John being in the seat next to me and considering his size, he could within a second easily reach over and grab the wheel or me for that matter.
I felt there was no rhyme or reason to his directions or no randomness to his objective. At this point I was no longer nervous, I was downright scared. Whatever intellect I had left at that moment confirmed my concern that I was in a real serious predicament.
I tried to think about the various options available to get this situation defused and/or resolved without a tragic outcome. I thought of the only thing to do; reach out to the One that I know who would help. Attempting a respectful and/or intelligent prayer at this moment just doesn't work as I was too freaked out! "God Please Help!" is all I could manage.
While I had considered heading back toward town, God's providence guided me against disobeying John's directional requests. "Turn right here. Now turn left at the next light.” John firmly commanded. I had no idea where we were, yet I continued to comply.
After what seemed an eternity (probably only another 10 minutes), John directed me to turn down some residential street in a dimly lit subdivision. There were a few houses but they were quite far apart. As we were about a quarter mile into this area, John abruptly ordered me to stop. I immediately followed his direction. Without another word he jumped out of the car and slammed the door shut. We were not even remotely close to any inhabited house or building when he departed. I proceeded to speed away without looking back but giving thanks to the One who was and always is there for me. Hurrying straight home, I happened to think of the text in Psalms 34:7: "The Angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
Theodore Lewis, former CEO of the Guam Memorial Hospital, is now based on Maine, where he is exploring Uber adventures and collecting stories about life. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.